Photo courtesy of Bret Thoman
Bret Thoman, OFS – published on 01/29/21
He first sought out the saint with a reputation for reading souls because he wanted to know if he had passed his exams.
In April 2019, one of the last living spiritual sons of Padre Pio came to the United States, where he gave conferences in Atlanta, Tampa, and St. Louis. Adolfo Affatato talked about the incredible things he witnessed – but more importantly, learned – at the side of one of the best known saints of the 20th century.
In 1952, Adolfo met Padre Pio through unusual circumstances. Now 82, Adolfo tells the story.
When he was 16, he set out from his home town of Foggia not far from the Gargano Mountains naively hoping this “soul reader” would tell him if he had passed his high school exams. Unbeknownst to this innocent boy, his first brief encounter with the stigmatized saint would radically transform his life.
Padre Pio was leading an evening prayer in honor of St. Alphonsus. When Adolfo observed him the first time, he realized he was in the presence of someone, something, extraordinary.
At the conclusion of the service, the men filled the sacristy behind the ancient church to try to get close to Padre Pio as he made his way into the cloister. Adolfo was there, too, by now feeling the weight of the foolishness of his original motive for coming out there.
As Padre Pio turned to the door leading up to his cell, suddenly he stopped. He turned toward Adolfo and said, “Adolfo, vieni qui” (Adolfo, come here). Incredulous that Padre Pio was actually speaking to him, Adolfo remained motionless. Padre Pio repeated himself: “Adolfo, vieni qui.”
Adolfo stammered out, “Padre, stai parlando a me?” (Father are you speaking to me?). To which the saint – known for his wry and surly temperament – said, “Mica mi chiamo io Adolfo, vieni qui” (As if my name were Adolfo. Come here).
Adolfo approached Padre Pio. The Capuchin friar placed his hand on the young man’s forehead and said, “Ti aspettavo da molto tempo” (I have been waiting for you for a long time). He turned around, exited the sacristy, and disappeared down the corridor.
Adolfo stood there dumbfounded at what had just happened. Those present stared at him wondering who he was and what had just happened.
That was the first of Adolfo’s countless visits to San Giovanni Rotondo. Shortly thereafter, Padre Pio accepted Adolfo as his “spiritual son” – an intimate relationship based on close spiritual accompaniment and direction.
Padre Pio guided Adolfo in his decisions and life choices regarding study and work. The last marriage celebrated by Padre Pio was Adolfo’s with his wife, Franca.
Over the years, Adolfo witnessed firsthand numerous episodes of supernatural, mystical phenomena the saint was known for. More importantly, Adolfo received much, much more than a firsthand account of curious events.
Padre Pio personified the loving, merciful face of God the Father to Adolfo. Through his relationship with Padre Pio, he came to know the deep and abiding love of God within himself. Adolfo’s experience with Padre Pio was, thus, evangelical.
Adolfo kept a diary in which he recorded what he observed, received, and felt. Not long ago, he self-published the first edition of his memoirs in Italian with the title, “Io e Il Padre” (Padre Pio and I).
In his book and conferences, Adolfo has had only one goal: to make the saint known “more and better.” As such, he never accepts any money for his books. Neither does he accept reimbursement for his travel expenses when he is invited to talk about Padre Pio in Italy or abroad.
What emerges in his writings is the heartfelt, endearing story of a man who loved Padre Pio as a father. After more than 50 years from the death of the saint, when Adolfo writes about him, it’s as if the stories took place yesterday.
Adolfo’s ministries are the fruit of what Padre Pio once told Adolfo, “Give the love that I have put into your heart to those to whom you draw near. In this is the meaning of life.”
(Adolfo’s book, Padre Pio and I, is available in English on Amazon. 100% of royalties are donated to the friars of San Giovanni Rotondo.)